Garrett Richards has been compared to Nathan Eovaldi this spring. After all, both are big right-handers with elite stuff, and both have seen their careers frequently interrupted by injury.
In the first week of spring training, then, it perhaps stands to reason that their first appearances would be similar -- and not in a good way.
Like Eovaldi on Sunday, Richards made his spring training debut Monday. And just like Eovaldi, he struggled with his command and mechanics.
Richards threw 23 pitches in a long first inning that had to be cut short -- just as happened with Eovaldi a day earlier.
"I was just getting a little mechanical,'' offered Richards after the Sox lost to the Atlanta Braves, 5-3 in a seven-inning game. "Everything had good action on it. I just needed to stay in a little bit more in 'competitive' mode vs. 'mechanical' mode. Once that switch kind of flipped, everything felt great again. But by all means, I'm not happy about it. Today's outing isn't what you're going to see out of me on a regular basis -- I'll tell you that right now.
"Getting out there for the first time, and getting back into my routine, yeah, it's frustrating. Obviously, you want to finish the inning and (record) all the outs that your outing requires. But that's part of it. This is spring training. I'm not going to make excuses for what happened, but things are definitely trending in the right direction.''
More than anything, Richards is happy to be healthy this spring.
"I'm just kind of checking all the boxes and getting back into competing,'' he said. "You spend the whole offseason throwing bullpens and worrying about your mechanics and how you're feeling. When you get to spring training, you have to flip that switch into competitive mode.''
Richards liked that he made some adjustments in the second and had a far smoother inning, inducing early contact and retiring the Braves in order.
Shortstop Xander Bogaerts is being held out of the first few games with some shoulder soreness. As a precaution, the Sox sent him for an MRI, which proved negative.
"We do feel that he's progressing right now,'' said Alex Cora. "We shut him down for a little bit. He rushed himself with his throwing program during the offseason. With everything going on with the virus, there were a few things that he wasn't able to do in Aruba because of lockdowns. So it wasn't a regular offseason. He was able to hit but his throwing program wasn't perfect so he rushed himself. He was sore for a few days. He should be back to throwing in the next couple of days. We just have to be patient. We've got 30 more days. As of now, we feel that he should be ready for Opening Day.''
With Bogaerts out, Christian Arroyo and Jeter Downs took over at short.
Cora stressed the need for the Red Sox to